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Jason Liebig

15 Not-So-Delicious Candy Gimmicks

Original image
Jason Liebig

Competition for shelf space is fierce in the candy industry, where only the sweetest survive. Trying to capture the attention of children—a notoriously discriminating, albeit nose-picking crowd—has led to some creative, curious, and downright bizarre confections and promotions.

To help navigate this foil-wrapped underworld, we turned to Jason Liebig, candy authority and operator of, home to thousands of archived treats. Check out these 15 candies that dared to be different.   

1. Cadbury Wriggler

While Cadbury was famously preoccupied with Easter in the U.S., its New Zealand division had other ideas: fruit-flavored “jelly worms” pockmarked this chocolate treat in the 1990s. In a strange case of life imitating bar, the BBC reported in 2003 that Cadbury’s India arm had come under fire after consumers alleged they found live insects in one of their products.   

2. Goofy Groceries

The Philadelphia Chewing Gum Corporation knew the gum market was a merciless territory, which is why they placed an emphasis on wacky packaging. Their Goofy Groceries line from the late 1970s consisted of parody boxes of popular supermarket items, including Hamburger Helper (above), Ritz and Tide.

3. Giant Boss Bubble Gum

Another brainstorm from Philadelphia Chewing Gum Corp., this ad from September 1969 introduced kids to the grown-up world of TMJ syndrome. “Giant bubble gum sticks were produced by a number of companies around this time,” Liebig says, “though this may have been one of the biggest.”

4. Space Dust

This spin-off of General Foods’ own Pop Rocks was powdered rather than granulated and proved to be a popular target for candy bootleggers who sold it outside of the company’s test markets in the late 1970s. Criticized by parents for being nutritionally bankrupt even by candy standards, the product hit a snag after the company discovered “space dust” was slang for the dangerous street drug PCP, a.k.a. "angel dust." They later changed the name to Cosmic Candy.

5. Boston Baked Beans

Not a bean and not made in Boston, these treats from Leaf were actually peanuts wrapped in a candy coating. You can still find them today from the fine people at Ferrara, though the little legume getting a suntan appears to have retired.

6. Quicksand Bubble Gum

Via some kind of chemical reaction we didn’t learn about in school, Fleer’s Quicksand was powdered bubble gum that congealed when it got wet. The novelty was popular enough to last from the 1960s to the 1980s, though it never worked quite as advertised. “To my recollection, you never got as much chewing out of it as you'd hope,” Liebig says. “A lot of powder turned into a relatively small gob of gum.”

7. Wonkalate Bar with Nerds

Once again, it’s foreign markets that have all the fun. Nestle introduced this Frankenstein creation in 2000, blending a purple chocolate base with “snozzberry” flavored Nerds candy. Resembling a lump of Technicolor vomit, the Wonkalate quietly slid off shelves after a six-figure ad campaign.

8. Kojak Pops

Who loves ya, baby? Certainly not your oral hygienist if you overindulged on these lollipops endorsed by Telly Savalas’ iconic ‘70s television detective. Manufactured by Four Star Candy for Universal, the pops were flat, not bulb-shaped, and joined the show’s merchandising efforts which included a board game and a dapper action figure.  

9. Crackheads

“Yeah, Crackheads was real,” Liebig says. “It was only really distributed to candy specialty stores as well as places like Spencer Gifts.”  The energy treats are still being sold and boast as much caffeine as six cups of coffee. If you like the idea of never sleeping again but find the packaging offensive, manufacturer Osmanium offers the same product under the name Jitterbeans.

10. The Charleston Chew Pony Contest

You wanna move some candy? You’d better be prepared to give away some livestock. In the 1970s, Charleston Chew held a contest in which entrants could send in their wrappers for a chance to win an actual pony, “or a horse if you prefer.” Earlier, the candy bar made a similar offer for a live monkey that came already dressed.

11. Willy Wonka’s Watermelon

Whether Willy Wonka specified this oversized jawbreaker was “seedless” as a joke or legal obligation is lost to history. Sold in “crate” packaging and able to change color from green to white to red like the real thing, the Wonka Watermelon stuck around for a good chunk of the '80s.

12. Dip-It Lock and Key

When a new candy takes off, it’s likely to spawn lots of imitators. After Fun Dip mania seized the nation, Topps released Dip-It, a combination lock-and-key novelty that allowed sugar fiends to use a key to scoop candy from the padlock. “I recall the key was edible,” Liebig says. We’re pretty sure he’d remember if it wasn’t.

13. Big League Plug

Big League Chew, which used shredded gum to mimic chewing tobacco, was popular enough in the 1980s that the company branched out to the chocolate market. (The "plug" was the blob of chocolate chew oozing from your mouth.) The idea was that the bar could be snacked on in intervals and stuffed in a back pocket without melting. The idea was not a good one. It lasted a year.

14. Mr. Bones

Fleer resurrected this 1970s offering for Halloween 1993: interlocking pieces of hard candy that could be assembled to make a skeleton. But not all of the necessary pieces were in each coffin-shaped package, meaning you might need to buy more than one.

15. Garbage Can-dy

What kid doesn’t like to pretend to eat trash? Topps issued this plastic garbage can stuffed with candy shaped bottles, old boots, tin cans, and fish bones in different fruit flavors. The waste bin-themed offering didn’t last long, but Topps persevered: not long after, they introduced the Garbage Pail Kids.   

Hungry for more candy archaeology? Head on over to

All images courtesy of Jason Liebig.

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15 Historical Tips for Hosting a Holiday Party
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When planning your next Yuletide soirée, look to the past for inspiration. Some of our ancestors’ traditions and tactics for festive shindigs might be worth adopting this year. 


In the 18th century, dinner parties were about more than just food: There was a laundry list of rules and expectations to remember and follow. Seating had its own set of customs, but the process of finding a chair was at least a little more relaxed than say, the dress code (dressing for dinner would take upper-class Victorian women upwards of an hour). 

To begin seating, the host would enter the dining room with the most senior lady at the party. The host would sit at one end of the table while the senior woman would choose her own seat (more often than not, her preference would be near the hostess, who was seated at the other end of the table). Once the host, hostess, and senior lady were all settled, the remaining guests would be free to find seats of their own choosing. Typically, the guests would try to find a seat next to someone desirable to court. For your own party, take a cue from this tradition and ditch the place cards.


Specially folded napkins are an easy and inexpensive way to add some flair to the table. To start, use crisp, well-starched napkins that can hold a shape. 

The Steward's Handbook and Guide to Party Catering by Jessup Whitehead (published in 1889) explains the best method for creating handsome napkin configurations: "It is necessary to be always very precise in making the folds, bringing the edges and corners exactly to meet, a rule which applies to all the designs; but without strict attention to which, the more elaborate patterns cannot be represented."

With some creativity, napkins can be transformed into various shapes like crowns, fans, and flowers. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can try for some festive shapes like a Christmas tree or star. 


At smaller parties, it is typically the host’s job to deliver the first toast—one that is best when it’s short and to the point. If you need some inspiration, consider one of these recommendations from 1869’s Mixing in Society: A Complete Manual of Manners

“Love, liberty, and length of days.”

“May we never want a friend, nor a bottle to share with him.”

“Our absent friends on land and sea.” 

If you would like something more festive for the holidays, American essayist Hamilton Wright Mabie once raised a glass and said, "Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love." 


When making your excellent retro toast, you’re going to need raise the right vessel. To avoid anyone getting a little too merry, rustle up a Pythagorean cup, an Ancient Roman goblet used for pranks and forced restraint. If you filled this cup beyond a certain point, all of the liquid would spill out the bottom. 


Think outside the box when deciding on the theme of your holiday party. Sure, snowflakes and holly sprigs are safe and practical, but why not go big with your decorating? Consider the Bradley-Martin Ball in 1897, when Mrs. Cornelia Bradley-Martin poured just under $400,000 (the equivalent of nearly $9 million today) into a costumed shindig at a luxury hotel. With the right decorations—and exquisite attention to detail—she transformed the hotel into the Chateau de Versailles. 

In the early 1900s, wealthy businessman James Stillman threw a forest-themed dinner party complete with shrubbery and a working waterfall. While you might not be quick to consider building a water feature in your home, knowing these elaborate themes exist might make you reconsider the Santa window stickers. 

6. PLAY A GAME... 

The Book of Days, an 1832 guide to holidays, traditions, and curious events, describes the games people of yore would play to distract themselves from the frigid weather. In addition to classics like dice and cards, 18th century Britons would also amuse themselves with more complex games that involved multiple players, props, and elaborate rules. One such game, popular around Christmas, was called Questions and Commands; it was sort of like Truth or Dare without the dares. Instead, the commander would ask his or her subjects a series of “lawful” questions; if the subjects refused to answer or responded with a lie, they would be smutted (ash pushed into their faces) or sat upon as punishment. 


One popular game during the Victorian Era was called Blind-Man’s Bluff. To play, you clear the room of anything sharp or hazardous, and then blindfold a “victim.”  The blindfolded player then runs around trying to catch the other sighted players as they scramble around the room. This game, which was featured in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Vixen, offers the opportunity to steal some furtive touches and embraces under the guise of blind ignorance. 


Party-giving on Every Scale, published in 1880, recommends hiring a fine musician or well-known comedian to entertain your guests. Top-notch entertainment should receive top billing on your party’s invitation, the book explains, while the names of lesser-known performers may be replaced with the word “Music” at the bottom of the card. 


Many party planning books from the 19th century recommend a theater party as a less expensive alternative to a ball or dance. In the Victorian era, it was not uncommon to have a small theater already in your home, but those hosts who weren’t so lucky made do with a portable stage put in their reception room. Once you have a stage, you need to decide on the right play and actors. Party-giving on Every Scale suggests that a pre-existing play be used to avoid unforeseen problems in the production. The actors should not be professionals, but amateurs happy to engage in lighter fare. For your holiday purposes, consider getting your friends to put on a production of The Nutcracker


Victorian women often enjoyed the hot beverage during luncheons and breakfasts, but hot chocolate is a good idea whenever it’s nippy outside. You can delight your guests with a hot cup of cocoa at your next get-together by using an old fashioned recipe. Melt shaved chocolate and a bit of water in a saucepan at a low heat. When it’s fully liquefied, add milk little by little while mixing the concoction with an eggbeater. Soon you’ll have a creamy, delicious treat to pass out at your party (or to enjoy by yourself). 


The hollow paper goods popular on Christmas and New Year’s Eve come pre-filled with tiny toys and prizes that are revealed when the operator pulls both ends. Before paper hats, toys, and confetti became the standard prizes, original crackers yielded candy. British confectioner Tom Smith got the idea for the crackers in 1848 while on a trip to France. Your older guests might welcome sweets instead of plastic toys. 


For Vikings, the winter solstice was a time for cleansing. They would carve runes that represented negative qualities into logs before tossing them in the fire in the hope that the gods would react to this symbolic burning by abolishing the unwanted traits from the burners. If you have a big enough fireplace, you can re-enact this practice by having your guests carve things they want to get rid of into logs or sticks. 


Thanksgiving isn’t the only time to be gluttonous. Traditionally, the beginning of winter was an excellent time to have a feast: The abundance of food following the fall harvest led to some serious binge eating during the Middle Ages. King John of England threw a Christmas feast in 1213 that would make even champion eaters feel overwhelmed. The menu featured: 24 hogsheads of wine, 200 heads of pork, 1000 hens, 500 pounds of wax, 50 pounds of pepper, two pounds of saffron, 100 pounds of almonds, and 10,000 salt eels. 


During the holiday season, villages in medieval France liked to play a game called la soule. A conglomeration of modern sports like field hockey, football, and handball, la soule saw two teams from neighboring villages compete to bring a wooden or hay-stuffed leather ball to their opponent’s church by kicking, smacking, or hitting it with a stick—often traveling long distances across difficult terrain. Anywhere from 20 to 200 people would play at a time. If you want something a little tamer at your holiday gathering, maybe settle for a game of touch football or capture the flag. 


As detailed in Washington Irving’s The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, the end of Christmas dinner meant the beginning of story time. The elders would collect by the fireplace and tell all sorts of stories, some real and some fantasy. You could likewise end your evening around the fire by swapping tales and stories with your friends and family.  

Even the most meticulous party planner may encounter some unanticipated setbacks. For the solutions to 10 common holiday dinner woes, head to GEICO More

And for trouble on the road to Grandmother’s house, don’t hesitate to call GEICO; their capable, professional customer service reps will get you over the hills and through the woods in time for the first toast.

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15 Things You Didn’t Know Could Be Tiny
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It’s a secret dollhouse makers have known for ages: From bathrooms to dinosaurs, everything is cuter in miniature. Here are 15 things you didn’t know came pocket-sized. 


Compared to a human being, they’re huge. But the dwarf galaxies nestled into pockets of our universe are puny for star formations; some are only 1/100th the size of our Milky Way. Astronomers believe that there are more dwarf galaxies than any other kind, but they’re often hard to spot because of their size.


For four decades, the United States Secret Service trained staff using a state-of-the-art strategic program called Tiny Town. Tiny Town was exactly what it sounds like: a miniature model town complete with buildings, cars, and streets. The environment included an airport, stadium, and a hotel, and allowed agents in training to solve simulated security threats in a 3-D environment. Sadly but understandably, Tiny Town was retired in 2011 in favor of a virtual model.


Measuring as long as a school bus and weighing in at nine tons, Tyrannosaurus rex was indeed a whopper. Its ancestors, on the other hand, were pretty teeny. Forty million years before T. rex stomped onto the scene, Raptorex kriegsteini reigned supreme. Paleontologists say the wee dinosaur (which maxed out at 150 pounds) was a near-perfect copy of its famous descendant—just 100 times smaller. 


They may look like wrinkly fingers with teeth, but naked mole rats (Heterocephalus glaber) have got things figured out. Each colony lives in its own underground complex, complete with specialized rooms. There’s a pantry for storing food, a nursery for raising pups, and, yes, a little tiny bathroom. With up to 300 mole rats per colony, separating these chambers helps keep the place safe and sanitary for all its ugly-cute residents. 


Leave it to the Japanese to create the cutest cooking show in the world. A group of miniature enthusiasts (that’s people who love miniatures, not tiny, happy people) have assembled a sizable collection of dollhouse-scale kitchen supplies. Each mini episode of the show features a pair of anonymous hands using tiny pots, pitchers, spatulas, and stoves to prepare itsy bitsy versions of real meals. The knives are sharp, the fire is real, and the food looks delicious. 


Even the herbivores among us can enjoy a good bird this holiday season with tiny turkey cake pops. The latest delight from a creative baker in New York City, the realistic-looking teeny turkeys are made of lemon cake, strawberry frosting, and fondant. To give the “skin” that oven-roasted color, the baker glazes the little desserts with a mixture of vodka and gel food coloring.


Scientists were startled to discover that a common type of parasite is actually a very, very, very small jellyfish. The microscopic organisms called myxozoans are so primitive that, for a long time, biologists thought they were single-celled organisms. But researchers who sequenced the myxozoans’ genome found that the tiny critters are indeed animals. The myxozoans may not have guts or mouths, but they have nematocysts, or stinging cells—a hallmark of the jellyfish family.


When excess is the norm, some see living with less as a revolutionary act. Members of the Tiny House movement advocate living life on a smaller scale. Tiny houses really are tiny, averaging between 100 and 400 square feet. For obvious reasons, the houses are cheaper to build and maintain than the typical American house. They also necessitate a certain amount of casting off of earthly possessions; there’s only so much stuff you can fit in a cubby-sized kitchen.


The smallest park in the world occupies 452 square inches of land in Portland, Oregon. The park was the brainchild of a newspaperman in the 1940s whose office overlooked the traffic median. Sick of looking at a neglected lump of concrete, the journalist took matters into his own hands, pulling weeds and planting flowers. When he was finished, he declared the planter the world’s smallest park. The park would go on to figure prominently in the journalist’s columns, and by the 1950s, he was writing about the leprechaun colony that had taken up residence in his park. 


Many of the tiny things on this list testify to the majesty and mystery of nature. But some things, like tiny bikes and motorcycles, are more of a record of human ingenuity (and silliness). No bigger than a shoe, these mini two-wheelers require their riders to crouch like gorillas while maintaining their balance. One performer even incorporates a tiny bike into his circus act, riding it through a hula-hoop-sized ring of fire. 


You won’t see these flowers growing in a field; in fact, you’ll probably never see them at all—at least, not without a powerful magnifying lens. With some careful tinkering, scientists got barium carbonate crystals to grow into microscopic models of marigolds, violets, and more. This may not sound like a big deal unless you know that crystals are generally rigid structures, developing only in straight lines. Convincing them to blossom was quite a feat.

13. CARS 

As our population expands and more and more people move into urban areas, space and resources are truly at a premium. Gas is expensive, and finding parking in major cities is a huge pain. Enter the tiny car. These two-seaters can fit into even the smallest parking places, and many models are electric, which reduces or totally eliminates the need for gas. With a cute profile and impressive maneuverability, tiny cars perform best on crowded stop-and-go city streets. 


When we say horses, we mean horses, not ponies or foals. The record for the world’s smallest horse was set in 2006. The full-grown brown mare, which lives on a farm outside St. Louis, stands only 17.5 inches tall—barely bigger than a beagle.


This past September, scientists declared that they had found the world’s smallest snail. By November, their record had been broken. The largest specimen of the new champion, Acmella nana, reached only 0.027 inches tall and could not be seen without a microscope. The snail’s scientific name is a reference to its diminutive stature; nanus is Latin for “dwarf.” 

You’ll need some tricks up your sleeve in order to incorporate some of these tiny trends into your lifestyle. When cooking in your mini kitchen, for example, a slow cooker might come in handy—head to GEICO More for five surprising things you can cook in your slow cooker.  

With GEICO’s customer service, professionalism is never in short supply. Call a representative now to see how GEICO will fit into your life. 


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